June 7, 2023

Proxy flies late to win in Oaklawn Handicap thriller

Proxy wins the Oaklawn Handicap (Photo by Coady Photography)

A thrilling finish to the $1 million Oaklawn H. (G2) on Saturday resulted in another stakes triumph for Godolphin homebred Proxy, who was along in time to deny both Last Samurai and long-time pacesetter Stiletto Boy in a three-way photo at the end of a mile and an eighth.

Fitted with cheek pieces for the first time, Proxy was purposely kept wide in the run down the backside by jockey Joel Rosario, four lengths or so off of a pressured pace set by Stiletto Boy, who had edged Proxy by a neck in last month’s Santa Anita H. (G1).

“One thing Joel knows is that he doesn’t really like dirt in his face,” winning trainer Mike Stidham said. “Keeping him out there kept him out of the dirt and engaged in the race.”

Hanging tough on the lead entering the stretch as the pace pressing Classic Causeway began his retreat, Stiletto Boy soon had to deal with an inside bid from Last Samurai, the 2022 Oaklawn ‘Cap winner who was entering off back-to-back wins in the Razorback H. (G3) and Essex H. (G3). In tight quarters trying to squeeze through and past, Last Samurai finally did so near the finish. However, closing with a late outside rush was Proxy, who cut it close but got the job done by a head.

“Proxy always makes it hard to watch. He tends to lose interest in different parts of the race, but today he got there in time,” Stidham said.

Proxy finished the fast-track test in 1:49.68 and paid $9.40 as the third choice in a field of seven. Last Samurai finished second by a nose over Stilleto Boy, with Senor Buscador 2 3/4 lengths behind in fourth. Charge It, the 9-5 favorite, made no impression late when finishing fifth. Classic Causeway and Rated R Superstar completed the field.

This was the fifth win in 16 starts for the five-year-old Proxy, who earned a belated first stakes win in the Clark (G1) at Churchill Downs in November. He had previously placed in six stakes, including the 2021 Lecomte (G3) and Risen Star (G2) and the 2022 editions of the New Orleans Classic (G2), Ben Ali (G3), Blame S., and Stephen Foster (G2).

Stidham indicated after the race that Proxy would likely be aimed at some of the 1 1/4-mile fixtures in New York this summer. These include the $350,000 Suburban (G2) at Belmont Park on July 8 and the $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1) at Saratoga on Sept. 2.

Bred in Kentucky, Proxy is a son of Tapit and multiple Grade 1-winning Include mare Panty Raid, a full sister to Grade 2 heroine St. John’s River. Proxy is himself a half-brother to Grade 2 scorer Micheline.